BCM & DR: Mergers & Acquisitions (Part 1)

As many of you may know, I work in Program and Project Management, as well as Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. I find the Program/Project Management aspects help build and manage activities needed in BCM & DR and communicate buy-in and need with executives. If you haven’t had any Project Management training, I suggest you attend a course (Note to self: New Post about Project Management). So, it came as something interesting the other day when during a program meeting, the topic of a merger and acquisition with regards to BCM & DR came up during a meeting – and not at my urging either.

If you work for a large corporate entity, you may have gone through a merger/acquisition – as the either purchaser or the one who was acquired. If you work in the IT or DR/BCM role, then you’ve probably had some hair pulling moments trying to figure out how new – or old – technologies work and how they need to work together in the event of a disaster. But it’s doesn’t have to be that difficult…at least if the newly acquired company will still operate as a ‘separate entity’.

If this is the case, then the newly acquired company may not need to merge any DR/BCM processes with its new parent. Existing evacuation and assembly processes, Division Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and Business Impact Analysis (BIA) – among many BCM/DR processes – can still be leveraged and not needed by the new parent. Of course, with federal regulations, you’d probably want to make sure you had these processes and plans in place so that no one gets in trouble but overall, very little work would be required. There is even the possibility that the newly acquired/merged company keep it’s own IT DRP strategy and plans, because there is no need to merge them with the parent company but this is very rare, as IT is one of the main areas that gets merged or rather swallowed up by the parent company (I’ve been through it a dozen times and IT always gets ‘merged’ or at the very least, is modified so both technologies ‘see’ and ‘talk’ to each other. A bit more on that later…

However, what would need to be amended and merged more that anything is the Communication Strategy; the Crisis Communications Strategy between both organizations. Both companies would need to ensure they work together, even if they have two differing Crisis Management Team (CMT) structures. They’d need to ensure they communicate the same message externally, internally and be aware of the status of both at all times. You may be operating separately but you’re still part of the same overall company and in the big picture, what one does – or doesn’t do – can and will have ramifications for the other. So be sure to review communication strategies, processes and plans and be sure they encompass both companies, not just a one-sided strategy and leaves the other in the dark. If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you’ll know that I strongly believe that communications are important and that they will be your downfall before any ‘plan’ becomes you’re downfall.

Now of course, I’m assuming the purchased company has a DR/BCM program in place and if not, well…have fun (and more on that later too). If it is in place, then you’ll probably still need to report on the progress of the program to the parent company ensuring and validating the various components in the program. Plans are updated on a regular basis and incorporate changes where necessary and that testing occurs on at least an annual basis.

Also, at some point, it may be necessary to review the IT restoration and recovery strategy in place. It may not be right away but at some point you will need to. If both companies have 3rd party service providers in place or even if one does and one doesn’t, it’ll probably help reduce expenses to either fold everything into the existing IT DRP for one of the companies. Hey I have seen acquired companies have better strategies that the acquiring company and the small company’s strategy wins out. The potential to fold the two ITDRP’s together can provide better management capabilities, which means stronger restoration and recovery efforts.

Restoration and recovery strategies may still stay the same and there may be no need to change plans and processes to keep the two entities operating separately but there will be similar needs when it comes to external partners.

If things begin to merge and separate entities are eventually to become one – with the acquired simply disappearing from the business ‘map’, then you’ve got some work real work ahead of you.

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